Since I was called by God to his service, I immediately thought about the mission. I didn’t choose, but God sent me to Lebanon. What a discovery ! A beautiful, green and flowery country, full of natural beauties.
The warm welcome of the Lebanese people enabled me immediately to share the life of the population, across my presence with the children in the Movements, teaching French and Catechism. As I soon felt accepted and welcomed, I discovered convinced Christians and families who were concerned about their children’s education.
I lived some beautiful years where I was always helped by God’s grace, with the concern of proclaiming the Gospel. The collaboration with the Muslims has always been an easy task.
An experience of three years in Syria brought me in contact with another environment, a different culture which was however very similar to the previous one.
I changed the continent when I was transferred to Egypt.
At first I was in Cairo, where I discovered that the culture, the mentality and the children were very different and that the work domain was vast.
On following the path traced for me by God, I arrived in Alexandria. St. Jeanne Antide welcomed me in the school yard !
Saint Jeanne-Antide school welcomes 1100 pupils, starting from the nursery school till the upper classes where the students have the possibility to study three languages : Arabic, French and English.
This school of Alexandria, which was initially cosmopolitan, is actually open only to Egyptian pupils : 25 % are Christians and 75 % Muslims. The parents entrust their children to us especially to receive education. It’s nice to see their interest in the studies and the other activities of their children. I offered my service in this school through teaching, catechism, youths’ Movements : EYM (evangelical youths’ movement) and Guides. I always met excellent collaborators, management, employees and teachers.
As for the children, there are no differences between the social classes, the skills and the religion. Regarding the Muslim teachers, they have always been outstanding collaborators and used to share all the feasts and initiatives with the sisters. They even offered us shelter during the revolution.
Welcoming the child is important. Since early morning he feels welcomed and loved. He knows the person who can encourage him and those whom he can trust.
Although religion is excluded from our vocabulary, the children appreciate our availability.
Through us, they discover how to live and the fundamental values of education. They are even familiar with the values transmitted by St. Jeanne Antide.
Currently, our role is especially to teach how to live well together. They do this daily through the common charitable activities : visiting the orphans and the elderly. They participate joyfully in all the activities suggested by the school. They willingly help the handicapped who actually amount to 50 in our environment.
Shouldn’t we help the weak ? Those who need scholastic support and those who have difficult family situations. We give priority to these people. Do the meetings with the parents and the poor mean « going to the peripheries » ?
I think that those who do not know the Christian religion, perceive its source : for example when a mother, who is an ex-pupil tells me : « You do your work properly, because you have met God before starting the day » !
Sure, the relationships with young people, the personnel and all those whom God puts on our path, are important. I think that knowing how to listen to them, looking at them with love, acknowledging their skills, encouraging them and sharing the sorrows and difficulties is the most loving witness that we can give them. But even the witnessing of our community life is of utmost importance ; in a way that everyone could say : « See how they love each other and collaborate with us ! »
Many Christian teachers form part of the « Friends of Jeanne-Antide ».
These 36 years in the mission have always been for me an enriching experience for which I thank the Lord.
After 60 years of religious life, I cannot fail to give thanks for all that I have received. Sr. Madeleine Chauby, Besançon